300 Days. The maximum number of days in New Jersey I was given to file a lawsuit against my employer…
And also the day I was left to find justice outside the courtroom.
This day comes and goes without resolve for many. For me, I simply wasn’t feeling well enough yet to survive the long battle ahead. For others, maybe they weren’t able to find a lawyer. Or couldn’t afford one once they did.
In any case, the day our statute of limitations runs out can be a difficult one filled with many different emotions. At least, it was for me.
On one hand, I was so relieved.
Relieved my conscience was no longer conflicted, since it was never about the money anyway. Alleviated of the pain of facing further betrayals and attacks from the company I’d loved so much. And set free from having to fit all the wrong done to me into some tiny box so it could be deemed illegal.
But on the other hand, I also felt a fair amount of shame, guilt and regret.
Shame that I’d let them get away with treating me in such an unjust manner. Guilt that I hadn’t done my part to ensure others wouldn’t be harmed. And regret that my story wouldn’t end with a resounding victory…
Or, at least, I thought.
So, how did I find the sense of justice I so desperately needed to move forward and continue to heal? Below are 3 of the ways I personally came to peace with the passing of that 300th day. Ways I hope will help you overcome your struggle with it, as well.
1. Building Your Case
Since workplace bullying isn’t illegal in the US, I looked to the book, Rights On Trial,* to see how other workplace warriors faired in their fight for justice.
Through the book’s quantitative analysis of prior discrimination cases, I began to learn that we’re at a huge disadvantage right from the start. Organizations have a lot more money, many more lawyers, and can drag out cases for much longer. The legal process often leaves already grieving employees exhausted, financially strained and further traumatized.
But even if you’re one of the lucky ones that made it through with your health and family still intact, what would the final outcome likely have been?
Would it have all been worth it?
Below are 3 statistics from the book that may just relieve that nagging thought of “what if:”
1. If you dreamt of having your day in court, the stark reality is that only about 6% of employees who file a lawsuit ever make it to trial.*
2. If you imagined your employer shelling out millions for the harm they caused, you’d soon realize that the majority of cases settle out of court with a median award of $30,000 (with much of that going towards legal fees).*
3. And if you thought you’d be able to move on once justice had finally been served, you’d likely be shocked to find that 2 out of 3 employees end up losing their case.* Yes, in that very courtroom they hoped to become whole again.
By understanding what you may have endured and the likely outcome, you can begin to release yourself from our prior belief that legal action was the only way to even the score.
You are now free to find justice in a variety of other ways…and, more importantly, on your own terms.
2. The Judge and Jury
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, the most health damaging factor reported by targets was the experience of not being heard, even when proven right by the facts.
Finding validation after our experience is, perhaps, just as important. It may even be why we feel so strongly that hearing that almighty gavel is what affirms that what happened was legitimately wrong.
But there are many other “judges” to bring our cases before. And ones that are sure to come with a much higher “conviction rate” for our guilty employers…
For instance, therapists are wonderful allies. Our supportive family members and friends can also serve as commanding voices in our defense. And of course, there are lots of workplace abuse social media pages that are only a few key strokes away from lending support to our claims.
When others acknowledge our experience and cast judgment in our favor, our sense of justice is all that much closer to being obtained.
3. Reaching a Settlement
The stress of workplace abuse is felt in our body, the pain in our heart, and the burning of injustice in our mind. Many of us ruminate over the wrong that was done to us. And it’s no wonder.
So how can we move past the anger and bitterness even if our company hasn’t paid for what they’ve done to us?
I found that we do it by reaching a fair settlement in our own minds.
While this may prove to be the hardest and take the longest in our quest for justice, it’s the action, I believe, that results in the highest reward.
Last week I posted a blog I’d written about gratitude. I shared how practicing gratitude allowed me to slowly replace my negative feelings with positive ones.
But, that was only the beginning.
As I continued to train my mind to see the positives in the present moment, I found myself more open to exploring the opportunities that were now possible.
And, over time, these opportunities were starting to add up!
Where as I previously saw myself as a mom that worked in order to feel personally fulfilled, I was starting to find great satisfaction in staying at home. While I loved belonging to and working for an organization, I began to see that I could actually enjoy working for myself. And although I was immensely passionate about my prior industry, I was finding myself even more engaged in my advocacy work.
As the mental health experts have shared with us many times before, there really is power in our thoughts. Working towards a “settlement” in our minds can lead to a great sense of victory…
And, thus, justice.
The Final Verdict
So, for those of you who were so wronged but will never have your day in court, I have a wish for you this New Year.
I hope in 2020, you’ll look to overturn the sentence of misery this injustice has brought into your life.
That, if you’ve found it helpful, you’ll learn more about our current legal realities, find a platform to be heard and believed, and work towards a belief system that highlights your gains, instead of your losses.
This is when you’ll find the peace of mind necessary to take that next step. The step that leads to your time, energy and resources being spent on rebuilding that new, fabulous, fulfilling life that’s waiting for you. Then you’ll become unstoppable.
And, let’s face it, there’s simply no better form of justice than that!
This New Year, wherever you are in your career or recovery, I wish you success, peace, and most of all, good health.
If you are new to my writing, you can visit me at The Empowered Employee to read more of my blogs and find the resources I found helpful. You can also join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn
*Rights On Trial How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality, 2017, Ellen Berry, Robert L. Nelson, and Laura Beth Nielsen